And he’s now turned his love for baking into a flourishing home-based business, sharing his baked goods with customers across the country.
He had been mulling over the idea of setting up his own bakery for a while but the timing had never been right.
Then last year he was presented with the perfect opportunity to put his plans in motion and decided to follow his passion.
After 25 years working in IT, writing software, he began Gingerbread Bakery. Based in Market Drayton, the business’s name pays homage to the town’s historic links with the sweet treat.
“I started thinking about it in January last year. I’m an IT contractor and used to go from contract to contract. My last contract came to an end and then work dried up because of lockdown. I thought I would start it and see what happened. It’s snowballed from there,” Andy tells Weekend.
He offers personalised cake deliveries such as the likes of chocolate brownies, lemon drizzle, fruit cake, or his own special recipe spicy gingerbread by post.
“I started baking when my kids were born. Baking is my favourite thing to do. If I had a spare couple of hours, I would bake something sweet – I’ve got a sweet tooth.
“I find it quite relaxing because you are following the steps and you get something nice at the end of it.
“My family could only eat so much cake so when I was working in an office I used to take whatever I had baked the night before into the office. So the bakery has been a natural progression. My wife and daughter are the quality control department now,” says Andy.
The father of two prides himself on using the best quality ingredients that he can find and says they must be local where possible and always seasonal.
He launched the bakery in April and was pleasantly surprised by the demand as people took up the opportunity to send cakes to their loved ones by ordering online.
“During lockdown people wanted to send them as gifts for birthdays and anniversaries. It’s grown organically by word of mouth. I’ve posted cakes all over the country, from up to the top of Scotland to down to Cornwall and Devon,” says Andy.
His unique gingerbread recipe was developed with the help of food stylist and cookery teacher Steph Gubb and he describes it as “soft and moist and full of dark, sticky, treacly flavours with punchy spice and a lingering ginger heat”.
“I enjoyed developing the recipe into something I’m really proud of. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted,” Andy tells Weekend.
For Christmas he also created his own recipe for mulled spice chocolate brownies featuring allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. “They were really popular, I sold 60 boxes,” says Andy, who hopes to develop more products in the future.
And this month his bakery caught the eye of retail entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis who gave the business a boost through his ‘Small Business Sunday’ initiative.
Andy was one of six weekly winners to gain a retweet by Theo to his almost 500,000 Twitter followers, which resulted in extra orders for Andy’s products and more people following the bakery’s account.
“It is great to have support from Theo because it’s been tough trying to raise our profile and Theo has recognised our hard work and helped spread the word about what we do to his following,” says Andy.
“I’d tried a few times and I thought as it was a new year I would try again and it worked. Twitter went mad because everybody was tweeting and it created a bit of a buzz,” he adds.
Ryman Stationery, Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue chairman, Theo, said: “My vision is that everyone who has ever won an #SBS re-tweet from me becomes part of a friendly club; like-minded individuals who can share successes and learnings.
“The website will also give a valuable profile to the winners chosen and I wish Gingerbread Bakery every success.”
As well as baking, Andy also enjoys cooking and has honed his skills and knowledge by attending courses with some of the industry’s best-known names.
In 2011, he spent a week at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage on the Devon and Dorset border which he says “completely changed” his view of food. It made him determined to know the origins of what he was eating as well as reducing food miles and choosing only seasonal produce.
Since then he has spent two overnight shifts with master baker Aidan Chapman, of the Phoenix Bakery in Weymouth, and learned how to make pastry with Pastry King Brett Pistorius.
He has also made return trips to River Cottage to learn about curing and smoking as well as mushroom foraging and attended courses at Fordhall Organic Farm in Market Drayton.
At the moment Andy’s business is based at his home but he hopes to one day move to dedicated premises in Market Drayton
“I would love to have my own bakery and cake cafe in Market Drayton where people can drink coffee, eat cake and hang out – that would be the dream,” he tells Weekend.